Shawn King

No-cost safety classes unlock new career for technician

Working as a hydroblast technician, Shawn King sought a new goal.

After the safety field piqued his interest, he came to College of the Mainland, where he learned about free Friday classes offered by the Gulf Coast Safety Institute.

The classes changed the direction of his career.

"I started meeting a lot of individuals and getting knowledge from them,” said King. "In the last few years, accidents happened. A lot of big companies started saying, ‘What can we do?’”

He enrolled in classes in the COM Occupational Safety and Health Technology Program, which taught the fundamentals of chemistry, safety awareness and the importance of policy and procedure.

Shortly after, he was promoted to safety auditor at HydroChem, an industrial cleaning company that contracts with plants and refineries.

"Every day is different. I’ve got a lot of personalities I deal with," said King. "We stay (compliant with) OSHA rules, HydroChem rules and our customer’s rules."

King later was promoted to safety supervisor and then his current position as safety coordinator at HydroChem. He oversees safety at Texas City and Chocolate Bayou plants, ensuring that employees are cautious around hoses more powerful than pressure washers.

"Water is one of the strongest forces of nature, and at HydroChem we've channeled that force to do jobs safely, efficiently but most of all effectively," said King.

His goal is ensuring safety.

"When one incident happens, the money you made you lose," said King. "I care enough to do something to keep (employees) safe. If somebody’s hurt, that’s somebody’s mother, daughter, son.”

The Gulf Coast Safety Institute offers free classes each Friday about topics from industrial safety to effective communications in the workforce.

"To combine free safety training with quality training is key. We try to make classes less lecture and more hands-on," said director of the Gulf Coast Safety Institute Cindy Lewis.

The COM Occupational Safety and Health Technology Program offers both a certificate and two-year degree to help students advance in their careers.

"A lot of people just get the certificate because they already have a degree and they just need the knowledge," said Jeff Oakley, director of the COM Occupational Safety and Health Technology Program. "Every industry has a safety program. Many students get the certificate to get a promotion and make more money."

At the end of the day when everyone leaves unharmed, King considers it a good day.

"When I see (employees) out with their family, I know I did what I could to keep them safe," said King. "It all started from my free safety courses at the Gulf Coast Safety Institute."

For more information on the Gulf Coast Safety Institute, visit www.com.edu/gcsi or call 409-933-8166. For more information on the COM Occupational Safety and Health Technology Program, visit www.com.edu/osht or call 409-933-8242.